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How SA stopped a coup (re: "mercenaries" arrested in Zimbabwe en route to Equatorial Guinea)
The Star (Johannesburg) ^
| March 11, 2004
| Graeme Hosken, Jonathan Ancer
Posted on 03/10/2004 11:51:50 PM PST by HAL9000
The alleged mercenaries arrested in Zimbabwe are believed to have been on their way to a covert military training camp in Cameroon.
The men were remnants of South Africa's defunct mercenary company Executive Outcomes.
They were planning to join another former Executives Outcomes operative in Equatorial Guinea in an elaborate plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, which was supposed to have taken place next week.
The coup plot has been denied by the British-based company Logo Logistics, which employs the suspected mercenaries. The company claims they were going to provide security for mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But the governments of Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Zimbabwe have all confirmed the plot.
The plan fell apart when South African law enforcement agencies informed their Equatorial Guinea counterparts of the coup plot some time ago, President Thabo Mbeki's spokesperson said last night.
This led to the impounding of a Boeing 747 aircraft, carrying the 64 alleged mercenaries, in Harare, and of another 15 men in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, at the weekend.
Equatorial Guinea's government claims the 15 were the advance party to the group now being interrogated in various Zimbabwe jails.
They said the leader of the advance party was South African Nick du Toit, believed to be a former member of Executive Outcomes.
Flanked by armed guards, he was "invited" to make a public confession of the coup plot in Malabo on Tuesday. Du Toit admitted that the advance party planned to abduct Obiang and force him into exile.
"It wasn't a question of taking the life of the head of state, but of spiriting him away, taking him to Spain and forcing him into exile and then installing the government in exile of Severo Moto Nsa," Du Toit said.
Severo Moto Nsa is an opposition leader living in exile in Spain. He has denied any role in the coup plot.
But Patrick Smith, editor of the London-based Africa Confidential, said yesterday he had evidence to prove that Logo Logistics was linked to a wealthy Lebanese businessman with close ties to Moto.
Although the Zimbabwean government initially suspected it was the target of the alleged mercenaries, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said last night the men were on their way to Equatorial Guinea.
He added that Equatorial Guinea's police and army leaders had gone along with the plot against Obiang.
According to security sources, the men were on their way to a covert military training camp in Cameroon, the nearest country on the African mainland to Malabo, which is on the island of Bioko.
A South African intelligence agent said the camp had been used to train and equip opposition groups in Equatorial Guinea for the past six months.
The agent said the alleged mercenaries had all been recruited in South Africa.
"Information gathered has shown that these men were recruited over the past four months and were to head up the training for the Equatorial Guinea opposition forces," the agent said.
Remnants of the notorious Executive Outcomes, which shut down in 1999, are prominent in the coup plot.
Mohadi named Simon Witherspoon, a "known South African mercenary", as the apparent leader of the group and also mentioned Simon Mann, a former British Special Air Service member, as being among those arrested in Harare.
Witherspoon, Mann and Du Toit formed the basis of Executive Outcomes, said an analyst, who requested anonymity.
They men were due to appear in court in Harare today.
TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: africa; cameroon; dutoit; equatorialguinea; executiveoutcomes; mbasogo; mercenaries; mugabe; nickdutoit; obiang; southafrica; toit; zimbabwe
posted on 03/10/2004 11:51:51 PM PST
AC Web Exclusive: Malabo imbroglio
South African mercenaries are detained in Bioko and Zimbabwe en route to Malabo to oust President Obiang but at whose instigation?
The foiled plot to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and replace him with opposition leader Severo Moto Nsa ranks as one of the most farcical military adventures in Africa's long history of coup-making. It may also embarrass the governments of Spain and South Africa as questions are asked about how the plotters were able to organise their plan with apparent impunity.
Africa Confidential has learned that both the arrests of 15 ex-South African and other soldiers in Bioko, following the seizure of a United States-registered plane in Zimbabwe, and the arrests of a further 64 ex-South African soldiers on 6 March were part of a mismanaged plot to overthrow President Obiang and install Spanish-based opposition leader Severo Moto. Moto, who was involved in a separate, failed mercenary-led conspiracy in 1997, has vigorously denied the charge.
The 15 mercenaries arrested in Bioko were mainly South Africans, but their number also included some Kazakh and Armenian nationals and one German. The mercenaries' leader, a white South African who called himself 'Nick' , said he had been contacted by a man with a British accent named Craig, who reportedly had an American passport.
The coup plotters who flew into Harare Airport on Sunday appear to have been duped by some Zimbabwean military officers, led by Colonel Tshinga Dube, Director of Zimbabwe Defence Industries. Last week some of the ringleaders flew into Harare to meet Col. Dube and paid US$180,00 for a consignment of AK-47s, mortars and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.
But when the main team of mercenaries flew into Harare on 7 March in a Boeing 727-100, registered to US-based Dodson Aviation Inc., they were all arrested and the plane was seized. Dodson say that the plane had recently been sold to Logo Logistics, a private security company, based in the British Virgin Islands. Africa Confidential has obtained copies of an 'investor agreement' between Logo Logistics and the Lebanon-based Asian Trade and Investment Group SAL, which was alleged to have commissioned the overthrow of President Obiang, according to military sources in South Africa.
Equatorial Guinea Information Minister Agustin Nze Nfumu has accused London-based businessman Ely Calil of helping to organise and finance the coup attempt. Nze Nfumu called Calil the 'Godfather of Severo Moto'. But Calil told Africa Confidential that he had no links to Asian Trade and Investment Group and no connection to the coup plot. However, Calil did concede that he was a friend of opposition leader Severo Moto, the supposed beneficiary of the plot, and had given 'modest' financial support in recent years.
The unmasking of the coup plot may also embarrass Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who has had several meetings with Moto recently, and was said by military sources to have been aware of the plot. Aznar is due to stand down ahead of national elections in the next few weeks.
The affair will also be a test case for South Africa's anti-mercenary legislation, given that much of the planning for the coup happened there and that most of the mercenaries were former South African soldiers.
President Obiang will doubtless try to use the failed coup to his advantage. His position has seemed to weaken in recent months, with the succession battle heating up and rifts developing within the country's tiny ruling clique. The latest blow to Obiang came late last month when he visited Washington D.C. in an attempt to resolve problems with his government's account at Riggs Bank. Obiang is the sole signatory on that account, which had a balance of more than US$600 million. The account has recently been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an official at Riggs Bank has been interrogated by US agents.
posted on 03/11/2004 12:06:18 AM PST
(To enter my lane you must use your turn signal!)
This is one example of what's wrong with the PC world of today - no respect.
Back in the good old days (60's & 70's) of the Congo and Angola 'wars', merc's used to get some respect! It's a really pity you know, all that 'talent' going to waste.
posted on 03/11/2004 5:29:13 AM PST
("Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments." -- Frederick the Great)
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